What happens to a marketing manager in a school or non-profit organisation that has limited resources?

When you have limited marketing resources, the most common outcome is a tiny team (of 1 or 2) that is strongly weighted towards capable doers (or Enablement & Tenacity in the Working Genius model as I explain below).

These people are amazing. They’re prepared to be in the trenches and work across multiple disciplines. They are the photographer, the social media manager, the event planner, the website designer, the PA to the Principal and usually a host of other non-marketing-related responsibilities.

When I talk to schools, I often ask ‘who’s the heartbeat, flag-bearer, image-carrier of your school’. More often than not, it’s the marketing manager, working three days per week, doing a million things a day.

If this is you, I’m sorry: Because you’re amazing, and you’re being expected to do waaay too much.

Here’s why.

What’s the Working Genius?

I’ve always been drawn to strength-based assessments because they help to illuminate the best parts of people. Amongst the many team strength assessment frameworks around, there is one model that has stuck with me: Patrick Lencioni’s Working Genius.

Here’s my 30 second summary of the Working Genius model:

Every project or piece of work moves through six main phases.

  • W – Wonder [I wonder if there’s a better way to do this?]
  • I – Invention [Here are five ways we could fix it!]
  • D – Discernment [Of those, three are unfeasible. It leaves two options – my gut says we need to go with Option 2]
  • G – Galvanising [Alright team, here’s the gameplan. Let’s do it!]
  • E – Enablement [We’ve hit a snag. How can I help you solve this problem and work at your best]
  • T – Tenacity [We’re at 90%, but this last 10% requires a lot of busy-work and fine-tuning to really make it shine]

“WIDGET”, if you need a mnemonic crutch.

Now, any given person is not naturally capable at all six of these phases. According to the model, most people generally have:

  • 🟢 2 areas they are passionate about and excel in. This is your Working Genius.
  • 🟡 2 areas they’ve learned to be proficient in but would prefer to delegate. This is your Working Competency.
  • 🔴 2 areas that drain them and can result in dissatisfaction if they’re assigned to them. This is your Working Frustration.

My two areas genius? Wonder and discernment.

That’s why I’ve shaped the majority my work around the early phases of WIDGET.

(And it’s why, in collaborations, my most fruitful working relationships are with people who excel at getting things done – the second half of WIDGET).

Why too much is expected of school and NFP marketing managers

The demands of a marketing team of one generally leaves no time or capacity for:

  • Wondering – Asking curious, insightful questions that get to the heart of problems and discover possibilities
  • Inventing – Brainstorming new ideas and fresh solutions to old ways of doing things
  • Discerning – Deeply understanding your organisations unique context to highlight the areas of highest priority for investment
  • Galvanising – Gathering, building and uniting a team of people around shared goals

These are all essential components of great work and successful projects. Without them, your output tends to be a stab in the dark / paddling upstream (pick your favourite idiom).

Frantic bordering on panicked; last minute; driven by the loudest voice in the room.

When in reality: marketing can be calm, considered, planned, strategic and data-driven. Dare I say…. Fun?

Too often, these early-project disciplines like Wondering, Inventing and Discerning are left behind, despite the fact that they are the foundational pieces of every good piece of work.

So what can be done about this?

If you’re one of these marketing managers…

Know your worth and your strengths! If you’re a confident and capable doer (Enablement and Tenacity), then you might need to bolster your team by finding ways to introduce the early phases (Wonder, Invention, Discernment) into your workflow. You can do this by:

  • Utilising software platforms that help automate regular actions (lessening your workload) and ideate (ChatGPT is your friend).
  • Engaging external experts like Bolsta Digital, who can guide you through strategic planning processes and partner with you for long-term growth
  • Advocating for less responsibilities, more time – or both. Not having your brain strewn across 17 different disciplines is going to mean more time to focus on the areas of highest impact.

If you’re a business manager…

Value your marketing manager/team by listening to their needs. Marketing managers are not magicians, they can’t be strong at every discipline and strong across all phases of work (think the Working Genius WIDGET model). Consider:

  • Enabling your marketing managers by resourcing them with the time and budget to bolster their work
  • Providing strategic support where necessary – set expectations and strategic goals – especially for your doing-focused marketing managers.
  • Up-skilling yourself on the importance of strategic marketing. If you’re from a finance background, you may not have as much experience in the value of marketing. Speaking with an external strategic marketing consultant like Bolsta Digital can help you understand the value of marketing in your context.